Friday, June 19, 2020

Some days skim the surface of the surreal, propelling us through mayhem and conundrum with nary a second thought, distracting us with the colors and lights of utmost potential. Yesterday was not one of those days. Yesterday, as my workplace threatened to drag us out of our comfy home offices and back to the germ-infested downtown office towers, my anxiety leapt into a frantic rhythmic gymnastics routine with little rhythm and zero grace. My mental health has blossomed working from home, and my productivity has probably doubled. Plus, I’ve had time to really dig into some lengthy prose, in order to celebrate all the wonders in the world. Like this:

National Splurge Day

I prefer the way this was rebranded on the show Parks & Recreation as Treat Yo’Self Day. It’s a great idea though, to refocus your efforts on rewarding yourself for all your hard work. Or, if you’re not big into hard work, simply for surviving another day. Whatever your excuse, it’s a good idea to splurge every once in a while.

Of course, this entire year is a form of splurgery for us. We’ve been treating ourselves to every dessert celebration (up until Wednesday, anyway), and getting doughnuts every Saturday – including throughout the pandemic. This has left us on a pretty strict budget right now, though that’s also due to having over-invested in a suddenly non-communicative (but totally honest-sounding) Nigerian prince.

So we plotted out our end-of-month splurge. We have to remain cautious, as Jodie receives her entire summer’s worth of paycheques at the end of June. So we did some online browsing and set our splurges: Jodie’s getting a new pair of shoes and I’m springing for a webcam, in hopes that I’ll be continuing to work from home beyond the end of the month. Since that’s only negligible fun, I was planning to add the latest expansion to Civilization VI because that game has done a bang-up job of sucking my non-work, non-celebration time into the vortex of gaming. But then my lawn mower offered a different splurge suggestion last night: how about a new lawn mower, now that ours has died? Hooray!

If you’re not already splurging on a regular basis, this was your day to dive in. And if you’re a chronic splurgist like we are, you can wait one more day to change your ways. Or not. It’s your life.

National Sushi Day

We have to confess: neither of us are deeply in love with sushi. We like it, and some days it hits the spot perfectly. But Jodie is a bit put off by the sashimi – she took a biology course in university that freaked her out too much to eat raw fish. Sushi is most impressive for its history though – the rice actually helped to keep the fish from spoiling, so it was a practical dish above anything else. This happens as a result of lacto-fermentation, which sounds a little like what happens to my insides when I consume dairy, but actually refers to a metabolic process. The same science occurs in the creation of sauerkraut, in kimchi and in yogurt. Science is neat.

Back the olden days when this process was first being utilized, the rice would help to preserve the fish, and would then be tossed out before the fish was eaten. Vinegar was added to the process about 800 years ago, but they didn’t start subbing in fresh fish with vinegar, rice and nori until fairly recently. The style of sushi we’ve come to know and love popped up in Edo (Tokyo in today-speak) in the 1820s or 30s.

One thing to note about sushi is that it is perfectly acceptable to eat with the fingers, even if you’re at something formal, like a wedding or bar mitzvah. By the way, let’s not try to create a gefilte fish sushi blend, okay? That sounds stomach-turningly bad. (never mind – it’s already been done – this is truly the darkest timeline) For the sushi that features a piece of fish atop a bed of sticky rice, you are only supposed to dip the topping into the soy sauce. Dipping the rice in will cause the sushi to break apart, and that’s no fun for anyone.

Our local grocery store makes passable sushi, and that’s what we enjoyed last night for dinner. But when all this madness is over and we can once again venture into a restaurant without concern, we are overdue for a great sushi feast. We’ve been to a Benihana-style teppanyaki restaurant in the last year or so, but we need a real sushi experience. We’ll skip the sashimi though – the nearest ocean is thousands of miles away and there’s no way that raw fish is going to be fresh on my plate. Besides, Jodie knows what’s in there…

National Stewart’s Root Beer Day

A man named Frank Stewart had a vision of the perfect root beer, which he then unleashed upon an unsuspecting world back in 1924. Specifically they were unleashed at his chain of root beer stands, known as Stewart’s Restaurants. The drink has been beloved for nearly a century, and has spawned a number of other beverages in the Stewart’s line, like Birch Beer, Orange ‘n Cream, and Black Cherry, which Jodie sampled on a Bonza Bottler Day earlier this year.

So why does this particular brand get its own special day? There is no National Root Beer Day (though August will gift us with a National Root Beer Float Day, so that’s awesome), so what’s up with this?

I… have no idea. I can find no origin to the day, nor can I pinpoint June 17 as a particularly notable day in the storied history of the Stewart’s beverage line. I suppose someone – most likely someone in the employ of this company – decided that there should be a commemorative day for root beer, and that this was the lone brand of root beer that deserves it. Sure, okay. Maybe if the A&W, Hires, Barq’s, Mug, and Dad’s people can get their acts together and coordinate their own National Root Beer Day, we can expand on it.

But for now, this day belongs to Stewart’s. And we celebrated as we were meant to, by enjoying the beverage with dinner. It’s great stuff, like damn great. I’d pick it as the best root beer out there, especially if that would mean they’d send me some free product. But they likely won’t, so I’ll withhold my judgment. Maybe since they’re such a proactive company with the celebrations my luck will change.

National Dump the Pump Day

Well if this isn’t just a fine scrotal kick today. This day is meant to encourage us all not to use our cars but to take public transportation. It’s good for the environment, it eases overall traffic, and if you live in a big city you’ve probably got an adequate transit system at your disposal for a fairly low price. Our transit system gets mixed reviews, and that’s on its best day. My commute is roughly 45-60 minutes, depending on traffic. If I were to drive, I’d get there in half the time, at least.

But I’d also be paying for gas to and from downtown every day. And parking costs at least $300 a month if I want to be within 8 blocks of my building. Jodie has the benefit of free parking, and while her bus commute would probably be at least as long as mine, she can get to her school in about 15 minutes. So she drives and I don’t.

Usually. This is not a usual time. My commute now, from my bedroom across the hall, is even better for the environment, and takes 15 seconds, maybe longer if I head downstairs to turn on the coffee. Right now the thought of taking public transit makes me queasy. Our city is seeing an uptick in COVID cases and a downtick in people willing to wear masks in public.

But I understand the purpose of the day, and in a normal year I’d give it a good thumbs-up. Jodie advised me she would not have taken the bus had this been a normal year, as she has no desire to figure out that process and get it right at 7:30 in the morning. I get that. So let’s file this one away and take it under advisement. If you have to leave the house for work, keep transit in mind once it’s not a likely germ-infested hellhole experience. In Edmonton, we’ll someday return to public transit being only a regular hellhole experience. I can’t wait.

International Panic Day

I found one source that claims we should use this day to mitigate our sense of panic (which has, of course, seen a handful of quality tests in 2020), or to keep panic fully at bay by focussing on calming things. Another source tells me we should absolutely panic on this day, full-throttle and with every ounce of energy we can muster. Get it out of our system? Hope that the release sends calming endorphins into our gooey parts? Maybe smash that old abandoned car in the neighbor’s yard?

No, I dealt with panic on my terms today. My homegrown anxiety took me for a delightful dance as I sat in a pair of meetings to discuss the deconstruction of our happy quarantine and the eventual return to the office. I received few assurances, and spent a chunk of the day contemplating how I could somehow acquire a medical condition to render me immuno-compromised and unable to face the outside world. Is this the first step down the road to becoming a hermit? Well, as long as I’ve got my wife, my dogs and my high-speed internet, that sounds great to me.

Panic can be a killer. A panic attack can strip you of your ability to make logical, sensible decisions, and that can lead to all sorts of unpleasant mayhem. Mass panic, while it worked great when our prehistoric ancestors were using it to scare herds of wild beasts into running off a cliff, has led to some astounding tragedies. Panic is the body reacting after the removal of intellectual controls. The notion of having nothing to fear except fear itself is bogus – fear will motivate us to protect, inspire us to innovate. But panic is the quickest route to destruction.

I spent the day yesterday managing my panic. And unless you are really in need of a catharsis and maybe have a spotter or two who can ensure you don’t smash anything of actual value, I’d advise pursuing that method of celebrating the day. Panic ain’t fun.

Recess At Work Day

The people behind Recess at Work Day – and from what I can tell, they are very cool people – feel we should take a moment on this special day and do something different. Have some fun. Socialize. Build morale. I think that’s a terrific idea, and I’d like to see this more as a day that a workplace can use as an excuse to start a tradition of recess. In fact, I’d like my place of work to start doing an actual recess, like in school. Make us go outside for 15 minutes (when it’s not deep winter, of course). We can play soccer in a field, climb some monkeybars, maybe pass a note to our secret crush.

I don’t see that happening, especially since the only field near our office tower is too small for a good game of soccer, and usually filled with day drinkers. But I have always made it my mission at work to encourage some morale-boosting ideas. On Wednesday I took our staff (or some of them) through a trivia contest I put together. That was over lunch hour though, so it doesn’t count. This is actually the week designated for appreciation of us public servants, which for this government means we’ll simply have to pat ourselves on the back and hope there are no more layoff announcements. Yay for appreciation!

But seriously, yay for recess. I took some time mid-shift yesterday to play with my local schoolyard friends, all of whom are canine and fuzzy. It was a wonderful escape from an otherwise unpleasant day.

Today we roll forward once again, into another crazy Friday. And by ‘crazy’, I mean we’re going to finish that damn 3000-piece puzzle, and also make time for all this:

  • National Garfield The Cat Day. Thanks Jim Davis, for unleashing a miserable malcontent cat on the world. We’ll honour the dude by eating his favourite food.
  • National Martini Day. We’ll see how that barrel-aged gin does with some vermouth.
  • National Watch Day. Wear a watch? Or watch some TV? So many options.
  • Wear Blue Day. Delightfully easy to do this one.
  • National Flip-Flop Day. Footwear question for the day has been solved.
  • International Box Day. We’re supposed to build a box for our cat. We don’t have a cat, so maybe we’ll just put on the gloves and punch each other.
  • World Sauntering Day. Hard to move much faster than a saunter in flip-flops.
  • National Take Back the Lunch Break Day. Wait – who stole our lunch break?

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